Difficult Conversations

Body Language at Interviews

As someone who is attending interviews as part of my search for a new role as a Learning and Development Professional there’s lots to consider including of course Body Language at interview.

It’s many years ago now that I heard Allan Pease talk about Body Language at a JCI Conference. I do recall that after hearing him speak I became very focused on watching my own body language! However, with the benefit of experience since then I have modified my thinking but it is still an important consideration as long as you don’t become obsessed with thinking that everytime someone crosses their arms they must be feeling negative – they might just be cold or even more comfortable sitting like how.

It’s common to be nervous at an interview. You might be even more terrified to discover that your body language, rather than any words out of your mouth, can have a strong influence on the outcome of the interview. Here are a few quick do’s and don’ts that can help you ace your next interview.

  • Do: Give a firm handshake.
  • Don’t: Mash their hand too hard.
  • Do: Wait to be invited to sit down.
  • Don’t: Collapse into the chair. Keep everything controlled.
  • Do: Make eye contact. This shows you are paying attention and have nothing to hide. If there is more than one person conducting the interview, pay attention to each of them for a few seconds at a time. Start and finish with the person who has asked the most recent question you are answering.
  • Don’t: Stare. It can start to become too intense and uncomfortable.
  • Do: Sit comfortably, leaning slightly forward. Too forward seems like you are pushy or desperate. Too far back seems to indicated you are not really interested.
  • Don’t: Slouch, or lean too far forward or back. Sitting hunched forward, or lounging with arms and legs everywhere has the effect of looking a little too relaxed.
  • Don’t: Be too rigid. Try not to sit like a statue bolt upright in your chair with your fists bunched tightly. Act as naturally as you can considering the formality of this type of conversation.
  • Do: Face your questioners. This will help you look at each in turn.
  • Don’t: Angle your body away from them. This looks like you are trying to run away, or can’t wait to get out of there – especially if you are partly facing the door.
  • Do: Use your hands when speaking. A subtle message of control is to touching your fingertips together.
  • Don’t: Thrash around like a windmill. It is too distracting and suggests nervousness.
  • Do: Sit as still as you can while still carrying on a normal conversation.
  • Don’t: Touch your face or hair. This can make you seem dishonest and untrustworthy.
  • Do: Keep your shoulders relaxed.
  • Don’t: Rub your head or neck because they feel stiff. This can give the impression that you are bored or not interested.
  • Do: Keep your arms relaxed and natural.
  • Don’t: Sit with your arms crossed. This makes you look defensive and standoffish.

These main do’s and don’ts of body language when you go on an interview can make all the difference to whether you are successful. Practice with a friend, in front of a mirror, or on video, and start sending the right messages with your body language.

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